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Toby Chess

Toby Chess is an I-CAR program instructor, training specialist, and former salvage yard operator. Toby is universally known in the collision industry for his work with first responders and advocacy for body shops and consumers. He can be reached at

Thursday, 31 January 2008 17:00

Hey Toby 2: OEM1Stop, Used Radiators, Hoods and Latches

Written by Toby Chess

Hey Toby—Where can I get some repair information on a 2004 Chevrolet Corvette frame?
        —Steve from Temecula, CA

Steve—You are really lucky. At the CIC January meeting this month, a spokesman from the OEM Round Table unveiled a new and easy web site for the collision industry. Its address is and is it great. You go to the web site and click on the vehicle manufacturer that you need and it takes you right to the collision section. Some sites still require a fee, but more and more other OEMs are making this info free. One note: We have been telling the OEMs how difficult it has been to access information, and they have responded with this new site, but if you don’t use it, guess what, they will probably not listen to us in the future. Now here is what you do. After opening the home page, click on GM, click on “I agree” then go to Chevrolet Column, click on Corvette and click on 04—Rail Undercarriage and you are there. This is free. Thanks OEM Roundtable. [Editor’s note: see Janet Chaney’s column this issue for more on the CIC meeting and OEM Roundtable].

Hey Toby—I had a body shop order a radiator and a/c condenser from me and cancel the order the next day. I asked what happened and the body shop owner stated that the insurance company wanted him to purchase a used radiator and a/c condenser which was $80.00 cheaper. I cannot understand their logic.
    —Confused (name withheld by request).

Confused—I will try to shed some light on the matter. Virtually every insurance company wants its staff to search for used parts if possible to keep the cost of claims down. I don’t have a problem with that. The problem I do have is that management grades their staff on LKQ usage and the appraisal staff makes decisions with no common sense in mind. I would like to know if the body shop installed the units without having them cleaned and checked. How about the mileage on the units and their conditions? Don’t think that the wrecking yards are always telling us the true facts about mileage. Most of the time they don’t know.     What about cycle time? Last week I was at a body shop and a used front end was purchased. The radiator, condenser and trans cooler that were sent were wrong. Two more units were sent and again they were wrong. The vehicle was completed except for the cooling and a/c units for over 2 weeks, but the worst problem was that the manager got a call from the carrier complaining about the cycle time. You just can’t win for trying. I love used parts (I owned a wrecking yard 30 years ago), but there is time and place for them and we need to use some common sense with their useage.

Hey Toby—We’re repairing a 2002 Honda Accord. The front end is swung over to the right several inches, along with the hood. The hood surface is fine but the striker is badly bent. We advised the adjuster that the latch, and the hood should be replaced as we will not accept the liability on a hood flying up... The adjuster states, just hit the striker with a hammer, and the hood & latch will be fine...So Toby, what’s your take on this?
        —Gerald from Stockton

Gerald—Without seeing the vehicle, I will give you my best thoughts on this. I would have to agree with you that the hood and latch should be replaced due to a liability issue. With that being said, you need to take a few steps to protect yourself and the shop. I know that the insurance company says that they will guarantee the repairs, but if a lawsuit occurs in the future, guess who will be left holding the bag. That’s right—you. I would draft a letter stating that you recommend that the hood and latch be replaced, but you will repair the hood and not replace the latch, but in addition, you want the adjuster (make him sign the letter) and his or her carrier to indemnify you and your company harmless is case of a future lawsuit involving the hood and/or latch. I would also give the signed letter to the customer.


Hey Toby—I know that you are conducting the I-CAR Mobile Welding Qualification Test in the body shops. I know that the training is great (you come highly recommended), but it is not cheap. My question is this: If I pay for the test and the tech leaves me for another job, I am out the money. Can I have him sign a letter that he owes me the money (out of his last paycheck)?
            —Dan from Fresno

Dan—Thanks for the endorsement. People ask me that question all of the time. I asked Corey King (760-931-9070) that question at a recent CIC meeting. Corey is an attorney who specializes in HR problems and he is extremely knowledgeable in HR. I hope you never have an HR problem, but if the occasion arises, give him a call, he is an excellent employment attorney. He told me that you can write a letter for the employee to sign. To comply with the law, make it a forgivable loan. For example, if the employee leaves within six months of taking the test, he owes half, but the loan is forgiven if he/she stays for one year after taking the test. You may want your attorney to draft up the loan agreement and keep it on file for future use.

Hey Toby— I have been working real hard on reducing my overhead, but I don’t seem to be making any headway. Can you help?
—Frustrated (name withheld to protect the innocent) from North Hollywood, California

Frustrated—I am glad that you asked the question. I just finished putting together a list of items that you can do to reduce your expenses.

•Make sure that your rental car company keeps you well stocked in pens and pads. A little hint, buy your office supplies and take them home and use the office supplies receipt for a tax write off. Don’t forget to ask for clipboards. Please don’t go out and buy them for your adjusters.

•That free coffee in the waiting room, it is no longer free. Charge at least $0.50 for the brew. Swipe and display a “We Proudly Serve Starbucks Coffee” sign, but buy the cheapest coffee you can find. No one will know the difference. Make sure you go to the local coffee establishments for the packages of sugar and fake cream. Oh! Don’t forget the stirrers.

•If you have been providing free coffee for the employees, you now need to charge them for it. To save money, don’t provide any cups. Let them bring their own.

•Those free donuts and bagels from the rental car companies, you guessed it, charge for them. If you are smart get 2 or 3 rental companies to provide you with the goodies.

•Here is one idea that I really like. The used estimates and copies are reusable. Turn them upside down and reuse the back sides.

•If you are still using a fax machine with a ribbon, just rewind the cartridge and use three or 4 times. If the fax is important you can use the excuse that you could not read it to buy you some time.


•To increase production in the shop, install pay toilets. Employees will hold it longer and probably use some other establishment’s facilities (saves water and TP). I would also put a timer on the lights (say 1 minute) so there is no lounging around. If you don’t like that idea, put a 25 watt light bulb in the bathroom and remove the men’s magazines (keep those for yourself).

•Turn off the electricity to the refrigerator on Tuesdays and Thursdays.


•You need to find the nearest paper recycling center and get old newspapers and magazines. People really don’t care how old the magazines are anyway. The best ones are the entertainment magazines. Customers don’t want to read — they just want to look at the pictures


•The mountain spring water dispensers that use those plastic bottles, well, just refill them from a garden hose. Put some designer water label on the bottle and again no one will know the difference. Take a tax write-off and use the premium water for your home use,

•Instead of buying paper cups, take all the used paper from the estimate paper and make them into water cups. Now if you don’t know how to fold them, I will send you a sample cup with detailed instructions for small fee of $2.00 plus shipping and handling ($14.95) Please allow 6 to 7 months for delivery.

Obviously I’m not serious about these ideas. I will be giving you real ideas to help you to reduce your expenses with answers to specific questions in future Hey Toby! columns.

Questions for Hey Toby! can be sent to Toby at


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